The Giants have plenty of time to right the ship. While an early-season divisional loss certainly stings—especially when it’s the opening game against your most hated rival at home—the pain will surely relinquish if New York rattles off a few wins in a row.
And if history repeats itself at all, the Cowboys' game will quickly become a distant memory. The Giants have had several successful seasons that started off with a loss. Could the 2012 Giants be the next squad to bounce back from a Week 1 defeat?
This article will list, in chronological order, the six most successful Giants seasons that started with a loss.
The ’34 season began with a trip to Detroit. The game was a defensive battle in which New York failed to record a single point. A second-quarter field goal and a fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown by Father Lumpkin was just enough to propel the Lions to a 9-0 victory.
The Giants actually lost to the Packers the following week as well. But after starting the season off 0-2, the Giants turned things around with a five-game winning streak before eventually finishing 8-5 in the regular season.
The Giants, who came in first in the NFL East Division, faced the undefeated Chicago Bears (13-0) in the NFL championship game. The Bears were heavy favorites and held a 10-3 half-time lead on the frozen Polo Grounds.
However, in the second half, the Giants ditched their cleats for sneakers, resulting in better footing and quicker cutting. A 27-point, fourth-quarter performance lifted the Giants to an unlikely 30-13 victory.
The game is now famously known as “The Sneakers Game.”
The 1962 season wasn’t a championship-winning season, but it did feature an impressive recovery from a Week 1 loss.
The Giants traveled to Cleveland for their first game of the ’62 season. They had no answer for Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, who ran rampant for 134 yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts. Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle was fresh off the best season of his career, but he threw three interceptions in the team’s 17-7 loss to the Browns.
Tittle ended up having an All-Pro season in ’62, and the Giants only lost one other game the entire season, finishing with an impressive 12-2 regular season record. New York won the NFL East Division with a comfortable three-game cushion over the second place Steelers.
The Giants luck ran short when they faced a 13-1 Green Bay team in the NFL Championship game. The Bart Starr-led Packers proved to be too much for the Giants to handle, as three Jerry Kramer field goals aided Green Bay to a 16-3 victory.
The Giants did fall short of their ultimate goal, but that shouldn’t take away from the incredible run they went on after dropping their first game of the season.
The 1981 Giants fell off the tracks early but were able to put together just enough wins to earn the franchise’s first playoff berth in nearly two decades.
The 1970s was the worst decade in team history, as the Giants failed to qualify for postseason play every single season. It looked like it would be more of the same as the ’81 season kicked off with an embarrassing 24-10 loss to the Eagles at home. Young quarterback Phil Simms was still unproven, and rookie linebacker Lawrence Taylor was a completely untapped talent.
There was no miraculous turnaround for the ’81 Giants. In fact, they even sat at 5-6 heading into Week 12 of the season. However, New York was able to win four of its final five games, including a 13-10, overtime victory over the Cowboys in Week 17, allowing them to just barely squeeze into the playoffs past the 8-8 Packers and Lions.
After 17 straight playoff-less seasons, the Giants finally broke the streak of bad luck and actually won their Wild Card Round matchup, which was a rematch with the Eagles. New York ultimately fell in the divisional round to the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers by a score of 38-24.
The ’81 Giants never got close enough to sniff a championship, but it was a sign that they were putting the necessary pieces together to win their first Lombardi Trophy.
The 1986 Giants hardly looked like the defensively dominant team we remember them as in their opening game loss to the Cowboys.
New York relinquished nearly 400 yards of offense on their trip to Dallas. Running back Herschel Walker gashed the Giants for two touchdowns, and quarterback Danny White passed for two more. In spite of a 300-yard, three-touchdown performance from Phil Simms, the Giants fell to the Cowboys by a field goal.
Their Week 1 loss turned out to be nothing more than a minor blemish, as New York lost only one other game (Week 7 at Seattle) all season. The Giants coasted into the playoffs boasting a 14-2 record.
Their regular-season dominance carried over into the playoffs with a 49-3 throttling of the 49ers in the divisional round and a sound, 17-0 victory over the Redskins in the conference championship. Led by their stellar defense, the Giants quickly found themselves in their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
After trailing the Broncos 10-9 at halftime, New York posted a 30-point, second-half performance on its way to a 39-20 final. Simms, who set a Super Bowl record for completion percentage (88 percent), was named Super Bowl MVP.
If the 2012 Giants follow the model set forth by the ’86 Giants, their 24-17 loss to the Cowboys will hold much less weight.
Once again, New York visited the Dallas Cowboys for their Week 1 opener and fell in a 35-45 shootout. The Giants offense thrived as Eli Manning tossed for over 300 yards and four touchdowns, but the defense struggled and couldn’t find a way to slow down Tony Romo.
The troubles continued into Week 2 when the Packers came to the Meadowlands and stomped the Giants, 35-13. New York was dangerously close to starting off the season 0-3, but a goal-line stand at the end of the Redskins game in Week 3 served as a spark for a six-game winning streak.
The Giants ended up stumbling into the playoffs with a 10-6 record, but once postseason play began, New York’s inconsistent play ended. After topping the Buccaneers in the Wild Card Round, the underdog Giants experienced inspirational victories over the Cowboys and Packers, which avenged the team’s Week 1 and 2 losses.
After such a poor start to the season, no one imagined that the Giants would be able to take down a Patriots team that flirted with perfection all season. However, the same defense that gave up 80 points in the first two games of the season befuddled future Hall of Famer Tom Brady all night, and Manning passed his way to the first of his two Super Bowl MVP awards.
The ’07 Giants serve as proof that no matter how disastrous a season may seem at the outlook, there’s always time to turn things around for the better.
Of all the season-opening losses described in this article, none were as ugly as last season’s 28-14 loss to the Redskins, a team that mustered up only five wins all season.
Manning wound up having the best season of his career in 2011, but it wasn’t due to a hot start. Not only did Manning fail to throw a touchdown pass in Week 1, he also threw a pick six and completed only 56.3 percent of his attempts.
The defense, on the other hand, allowed mediocre Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman to compile over 300 yards and two touchdown passes.
The Giants were able to overcome their Week 1 loss and claw back to a 6-2 overall record by midseason. But after a severe slump, the Giants were suddenly an incredibly average 7-7 team with only two games left to play.
They were able to push out victories over the Jets and Cowboys in the final games of the regular season, barely qualifying for the postseason tournament with an unimpressive 9-7 record.
After completely dismantling the Falcons in the Wild Card Round and the top-seeded Packers in the divisional round, New York faced a physically imposing 49ers team on the road for the conference championship.
Thanks to some heads-up special teams plays and a little bit of luck, the Giants were able to slide past San Francisco and move on to the Super Bowl for the second time in five seasons.
Manning played a nearly flawless game against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, earning his second career Super Bowl MVP and joining the ranks of some of the greatest to ever play the game. The 21-17 victory over New England made the team’s awful Week 1 loss to the ‘Skins a mere afterthought.
On two occasions in recent memory, the Giants have reminded us that a lot can change over the course of a season. The question remains: How will the 2012 Giants change after their Week 1 defeat at the hands of the Cowboys? We’ll have to wait and see.